Stroll Sip and Sa­vor the De­lights of Sto­ried Carmel-by-the-sea

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bal­conies; the Tu­dor-style Court of the Golden Bough, once the site of the Golden Bough Theatre; Court of the Foun­tains, a mecca of an­tiques, art, restau­rants, spas and stores sur­round­ing a lovely cen­tral foun­tain; and El Paseo Court­yard, an en­clave cov­ered in terra-cotta tile where you’ll find a whim­si­cal sculp­ture of two fig­ures who are in the act of curt­sy­ing and bow­ing to one an­other. A nearby plaque cred­its the 1928 work to artist, Jo Mora. One of my fa­vorite pas­sage­ways, Secret Gar­den, is filled with stone stat­ues, wind chimes, foun­tains and an ar­ray of plants. You en­ter on one street and come out on an­other, at Pil­grim’s Way, the town’s cher­ished com­mu­nity book­store.

If you pre­fer some nar­ra­tion dur­ing your ex­plo­ration, sign up for a tour with Carmel Walks. The high­ly­ac­claimed guided walks take you through the var­i­ous path­ways and court­yards, as well as by award­win­ning gar­dens, his­tor­i­cal build­ings and en­chant­ing sto­ry­book cot­tages. Your guide will re­gale you with in­for­ma­tion about Carmel’s roots and its il­lus­tri­ous char­ac­ters such as Robert Louis Steven­son, Jack Lon­don and Robin­son Jef­fers, as well as its quaint cus­toms. You’ll also learn why the city is con­sid­ered an ar­chi­tec­tural jewel, fea­tur­ing French, English, Aus­trian and Amer­i­can Crafts­man in­flu­ences.

Vis­i­tors are most en­am­ored with Hugh Com­stock’s “Doll­house Tu­dor” homes, com­plete with rolled eaves, steeply pitched roofs, rounded doors and elfin stone chim­neys. Such gin­ger­bread cot­tages, as the of­ten pho­tographed Tuck Box tea­house and the icono­graphic Hansel House, make one feel as if he/she has been plunked down in the mid­dle of a fairy­tale. Tourists are also smit­ten with Michael J. Mur­phy’s lit­tle Vic­to­ri­ans with Crafts­man em­bel­lish­ments that dot the town. Back in the 1920s when Mur­phy sold his homes, these dwellings went for

about $100, lot in­cluded. These days, they’re worth mil­lions.

Other renowned ar­chi­tects, in­clud­ing Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Wynkoop also made their mark on Carmel. Wright’s Clin­ton Walker House is built on a ragged jetty on Carmel Beach and re­sem­bles the prow of a ship. This or­ganic struc­ture, which the ar­chi­tect called his “cabin on the rocks,” is wrapped in in­dige­nous Carmel stone, and its ter­race and liv­ing room jut out into scenic Carmel Bay. The But­ter­fly House, de­signed by Wynkoop, is perched on the rocks al­most at the water’s edge, look­ing very much like its winged name­sake. Lo­cated on Scenic Drive, these homes and oth­ers in the area boast a post­card set­ting com­prised of a pris­tine white sand beach, craggy cliffs and gnarled Cyprus trees.

As a long­time art colony and haven for artists of all per­sua­sions, the town is a mag­net for art afi­ciona­dos who rel­ish tour­ing the dozens of gal­leries in ex­is­tence. The Carmel Art As­so­ci­a­tion is also worth men­tion­ing, as it is the sec­ond old­est art co­op­er­a­tive in the coun­try. Founded in 1927, it show­cases the work of more than 100 pro­fes­sional lo­cal artists. And then there’s the Carmel Sun­set Cul­tural Cen­ter, a state-of-the-art per­form­ing arts cen­ter bring­ing a wide range of world-class mu­sic, theatre and dance pro­duc­tions. The build­ing, which be­gan as a pub­lic school in 1926, is no­table for its stun­ning Gothic ar­chi­tec­ture and in­cred­i­ble acous­tics.

When it comes to din­ing, Carmel-bythe-sea is heaven for gour­mands and for those who sim­ply ap­pre­ci­ate a great meal in a mem­o­rable am­biance. There are many high qual­ity es­tab­lish­ments, fea­tur­ing a range of in­ter­na­tional, re­gional and lo­cal cuisines, which ben­e­fit from their prox­im­ity to the abun­dance of fresh in­gre­di­ents pro­vided by the Mon­terey Bay and Sali­nas Val­ley. To get a good over­view of what the town of­fers, join one of Carmel Food Tours’ guided culi­nary and wine walk­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. Owner Staci Giovino, a self-con­fessed foodie, started the com­pany in 2012 with the de­sire to help vis­i­tors and Carmel res­i­dents alike en­joy the best “off-the-beaten-path” food and cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence pos­si­ble. She re­searched the most in­ter­est­ing and de­li­cious op­tions avail­able in the com­mu­nity, while study­ing the his­tory that makes this lo­cale so cre­ative and vi­brant.

On Giovino’s Carmel-by-the-sea Gourmet Food Tour, you’ll sam­ple spe­cial­ties from seven unique eater­ies, gourmet food stores and wine tast­ing rooms, while get­ting to in­ter­act with chefs, restau­rant own­ers and wine spe­cial­ists. High­lights in­clude Braised Kobe Beef and Po­lenta Cake at leg­endary An­ton & Michel; Caprese Salad at the rus­ti­cally chic Af­fina Food and Wine;

Spinach Gnoc­chi at Casanova’s, pur­port­edly Carmel’s most ro­man­tic restau­rant with its au­then­tic Van Gogh’s ta­ble; and North African Lamb Meat­balls at Terry’s Lounge in the Cy­press Inn. Olive oils and bal­samic vine­gars are the fo­cus at Trio Carmel, where your taste buds come alive with such com­bos as cin­na­mon and pear in­fused bal­samic with a blood or­ange oil or lemon and mush­room bal­samic with mush­room and sage oil. Carac­ci­oli Cel­lars gets top marks for its sparkling wines, par­tic­u­larly its 07’ Brut Cu­vee. The fi­nal stop on the tour is Lula’s Choco­lates, most pop­u­lar for its Sea Salt Caramels among other deca­dent de­lights.

If wine is your thing, make sure to take the self-paced, self-guided Wine Walk, which vis­its four­teen tast­ing rooms. Wine Pass­ports are avail­able at the Carmel Cham­ber of Com­merce Vis­i­tor Cen­ter, al­low­ing you up to four one-ounce pours at your choice of any nine of the four­teen es­tab­lish­ments. Most of the wines you will sam­ple come from small lot es­tates, fam­ily-run and sus­tain­ably op­er­ated winer­ies in the re­gion.

It’s easy to un­wind in this vil­lage by the sea, but if you need any as­sis­tance, there’s al­ways a trip to the day spa for a re­lax­ing mas­sage or body treat­ment. You won’t go wrong at top-rated Kush Day Spa, where own­ers John and Mon­ica Jert­berg have cre­ated a tran­quil haven tucked away in one of the town’s most serene court­yards. I highly rec­om­mend the Warm Stone Mas­sage, where heated stones are placed on your body and in­cor­po­rated in the mas­sage tech­nique. John, who is also a li­censed mas­sage ther­a­pist, did won­ders for my “travel knots.” I left re­ju­ve­nated and recharged, ready to dis­cover more trea­sures in this cel­e­brated sea­side vil­lage.

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